Large-scale production of hydrogen cars may still be years away, but that hasn't stopped automakers from testing their feasibility. Since 1966, General Motors, Honda, Toyota, Mercedes, Hyundai, Audi, BMW, and many other automakers have built prototype vehicles that employ hydrogen fuel.
Today the best-known hydrogen cars use fuel cells with polymer exchange membranes, which convert hydrogen to electricity. Fed by onboard tanks of gaseous hydrogen, the fuel cells create energy that is stored in batteries (typically lithium-ion) and used to power electric motors. Several big automakers -- most notably GM and Toyota -- are building and testing vehicles of this type. Toyota has even announced that it could sell hydrogen cars for $50,000-$100,000 by 2015.
A few automakers have developed internal combustion engines that can run on gaseous hydrogen. Aston Martin plans to run such an engine in a 24-hour race this month.
We've collected photos of a few of the more notable hydrogen technologies. Many more automakers are experimenting with hydrogen, but the following photos provide a glimpse of the state of its development as a fuel for future cars. Click the photo below to start the slideshow.
Introduced in 2009, the Mercedes-Benz F-Cell Roadster concept car mimics the Benz Patent Motor Car from 1886. Fitted with spoked wheels, carbon fiber bucket seats, and a hydrogen fuel cell drive, the car was the product of 150 students and Daimler AG trainees tasked with designing an alternative fuel vehicle. The F-Cell Roadster is controlled by drive-by-wire technology and employs a joystick instead of a conventional steering wheel. (Source: Mercedes-Benz)
I'm with you, Rob, the Mercedes-Benz stands out. It seems like hydrogen car makers are already thinking about more stylish designs than the current EV/hybrid makers. Or maybe it's just Mercedes, an icon of great car style, that's thinking retro to get ahead.
Elizebeth you are absolutely correct this Mercedes Benz is an extremely stylish one it is looking like very unique and delicate vehicle i havent seen such a goodlooking car even in hybrid technology .
The concept of using hydrogen gas as a feul is a good one, with the same amount of hydrogen gas the car will cover twice as much distance as by petrol. Secondly it is enviornmental healthy because it only emmits water vapour when burned not carbon dioxide .
However every new technologyhas pros and cons one disadvantage of using hydrogen gas as feul is that it is expensive .Secondly it is difficult to store it because its a gas not liquid .
Liz, I was particularly intrigued by the Roadster buggy's use of drive-by-wire technology. It has a joystick instead of a steering wheel. For years, engineers have told us that drive-by-wire allows us to do away with the steering wheel and replace it with a joystick or some othr device. Well, here it is.
A joystick! interesting. I can't even imagine how that would work. Of course it would take some getting used to, but it could be more comfortable, easier and more responsive than a wheel. I guess that's the point?
I believe the joy stick would be the 2013 equivalent of a tiller.
The speed and range specifications and refueling times for Hydrogen Fuel Cells certainly seem more practical than the all electric vehicles. The explosion risk is always there with hydrogen. I think development of a large scale hydrogen infrastructure would be the hardest thing to overcome. It is very hard to store.
H2 cars coming? I need to go out and invest in a H2 gas station before all the franchises are gone!
I think we have a problem here, Houston. First, H2 is a great gas. I appreciate all its many fine qualities, inluding space rockets, welding, breathing, etc. Great gas!
But, although it is plentiful and God makes more all the time, it is a tough nut to crack in using it on a large scale. H2 and He are the only gases that escape gravity into the ionosphere and are gone, gone, gone! So, bottles to hold it are special.
Then there is the explosive storage problem.
And it eats metal problem.
But other than that, bring it on!
Having said all this, I do believe the fuel cell is viable and I look forward to seeing them everywhere. I don't know if it is an efficient method of converting hyrofuels, but neither is the ICE!
Even though hydrogen is available plentiful, laws of thermodynamics restrict its usage. Laws prove that hydrogen will always be less efficient than any other alternatives. The phase changes required to produce and then burn hydrogen will always waste more energy than simply using electricity directly.
You're absolutely correct that the infrastructure for hydrogen fuel is nearly non-existent. Today, most hydrogen fuel is derived from natural gas using a steam reforming process. Automakers know the infrastructure is weak, of course. They also know the costs will be high and they have no idea how reliable these cars will be. Still, they're dipping a toe in the water as an engineering exercise. They want to know how much long-term potential is there, and how many years it will be before these cars can be a viable option.
What about the "BOOM" factor of carrying around a substance that is know to blow up space shuttles? Drivers do not seem to be getting any better at driving, even with the advancments in safety technology!
There was a lot research being done on Fuel cells using natural has there been any progress made? With all the sources of NG this could be used right away! PS what happens to the small amount of carbon when NG or propane is run through a fuel cell?
Bloom Energy corporation has been producing fuel cells using methane a.k.a. natural gas or CH4 for fixed installation as commercial building power sources for a few years now. Lesley Stahl did a piece on 60 Minutes about them. A link to their website appears below:
It shouldn't be a problem to scale the technology down for either home or mobile use.
While it doesn't completely eliminate carbon from the fuel cycle, the higher efficiency of fuel cells versus internal combustion engines drastically reduces the carbon footprint and my understanding is that the cell chemisty used can be adapted to hydrogen fuel without too much trouble.
The caption of slide 6 states one mile per kg of gasoline is considered equivalent to 1 mpg. Since a gallon of gasoline is approximately 13.3 kg, this does not seem to make sense. Is this a misprint or am I missing something?
This is a cute engineering exercise but my advice to auto makers is to put these cars in their respective museums right now as an example of an evolutionary dead-end.
As mentioned above, this technology will never scale to the point of providing hydrogen "gas" stations that our mass motoring public could take advantage of. Elements in a gaseous state (also mentioned above) are difficult to maintain and transport. Can you imagine how expensive it would be to transport compressed hydrogen gas from point A to point B?
The real problem with this technology is cost. It's extremely expensive to make, store, transport, and dispense hydrogen gas SAFELY. It will never progress beyond the few science experiments you see in this slideshow.
There are still some hurdles for Hydrogen powered cars to be commonplace on the roads, however don't be too quick to discount them. All that is needed is an efficient system for extracting Hydrogen from water that can be used on board a vehicle and all the storage problems dissappear. In fact filling stations would also dissappear as all the vehicle owner needs to do is top up with water from the tap at home.
The nay sayers will talk about this being impossible, but look at the technological achievements over the last 50 years and consider what has been possible that people thought could not be done.
Excellent post Charles. The company I have a partnership in is now producing our REV 7 on-board hydrogen generator. Our concept will be to "bleed-in" H2 and combine that will fuel promoting improvement in gas mileage. This is not a fuel cell but an installed device producing hydrogen. We have five trial installations so far that generate a 17% minimum improvement in mileage. The package also includes data retrieval so carbon fuel credits can be "booked". It also gives the transportation company indications as to actual savings and information relative to long-haul and short trip numbers. We are working towards installation on 300 and 400 HP diesel engines. These typically get 5 MPG so; any improvement would be a significant cost savings to that industry. Many thanks for the information and it's good to know what others are doing along these lines.
The end may not yet be near, but recent statements by two of the world’s biggest automakers point to the fact that the industry has begun to plan for a dramatic decline in vehicles that are powered solely by internal combustion engines.
At the recent Autodesk Accelerate event in Boston, the director of product development for a niche hypercar firm replied "no, no, no" to three answers he got for what makes a car go faster. What was the right response?
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.